Monthly Archives: August 2010

Ebook revolution well under way

August 31, 2010

Oxford English DictionaryExactly a year ago, I wrote about how ebooks are the future. Today I read that the Oxford English Dictionary, the mighty volumes that record our very language itself, will only be available online. You can read a bit about that here.

Now, I’m a speculative fiction writer. I love science fiction. I’ve said this before – my iPhone does way more than Captain Kirk’s communicator could ever do. The iPad is suspiciously like Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s PADD (Personal Access Display Device). Incidentally, check out the gibberish on the PADD screen in the picture below. Are we really surprised that things like a multi-volume behemoth are crumbling under the weight of online use? We can’t have the future and the past together. That’d be some weird time twister where everyone’s confused.

Star Trek PADDAs a writer, I often use a dictionary to check words. You know which one I use most? I have a beautiful printed dictionary, in fact I have a few, but I rarely use them. If I’m not at my computer, I use the app on my iPhone. It’s easy and it’s good for the planet. You can hear the trees breathing a sigh of relief.

But you may also remember me gushing about how much I love Angela Slatter’s new book. Not just because it’s awesome storytelling, but because the physical book is just a beautiful thing to hold and behold. It was limited to 300 copies. Here’s a relevant quote from my previous post a year ago, that I linked at the start of this one:

But here’s my prediction – 99% of the books of the future will be either electronic or Print-On-Demand. Within twenty years or so traditional off-set print runs will be used exclusively for high-end collectors edition books.

I know – quoting myself. What a wanker. But you get my point. We have to accept that these things are happening and we have to accept that it’s not a bad development. I heard a statistic on the radio today that by the end of next year, one in ten books bought will be ebooks. Ten per cent of market share. That’s a lot for a new technology. It’s already around the three to five per cent mark. But literacy rates are expected to go up as well, as more people will have access to more reading options more often.

That 20 year estimate in my quote above could be grossly inaccurate. It might all happen far quicker than that. It’s the future people. Embrace it. Real books aren’t going anywhere, because too many of us love them. But the face of reading is changing just like the nature of book buying and book publishing is changing. Don’t be scared – it’s all really quite exciting.

EDIT – There’s been a fair amount of chatter about this post on Twitter and other places and one of the things that keeps getting mentioned again and again is, more or less, “I just hate reading from a screen, simple as that.”

Well, it’s worth noting that ebook readers are evolving rapidly too. Already the Kindle and other e-ink devices are replicating the printed page very well. Screens will soon be so advanced that they’re just like a printed page. And isn’t that deliciously ironic. Accept it – we already live in a digital future. The Schwarzschild radius has long since passed.


Flesh and Bone is here

August 30, 2010

You know how the other day I was going on about how much I love to receive books? I was talking about what a joy it is to get books in the mail, especially books that are works of art in themselves, as well as containing awesome stories? Well, there’s one thing better. Getting a book in the post that contains awesome stories, one of which is written by me. I still get such a thrill seeing a book with my name in the Table Of Contents. This one arrived today:

Flesh & Bone: Rise Of The Necromancers is an anthology from Pill Hill Press: Twenty-one dark short stories about the undead, and the persons who raise them…

My story, The King’s Accord, is one of them. Get your copy here.

*snoopy dance*


Friday Flash – Jeff Newman’s Headaches

August 27, 2010

FrdayFlashBadgeThis is a little bit cheeky, but as I don’t have a new flash fiction piece for today, I thought I’d redirect people to the piece that was published at 52 Stitches on Monday. It’s still the same week and it’s still flash fiction, so it counts, right? The story is called Jeff Newman’s Headaches and you can find it here. I hope you like it.

If you already read the story after I posted an announcement about it on Monday, I apologise for wasting your time. For you, just so you don’t feel cheated, here’s an Arabic robot made of microwave ovens:


It’s a drive-by!

August 25, 2010

You may remember Angela Slatter from such posts as yesterday’s glowing review. Well, some time ago she sent me five questions as part of her drive-by series of interviews. She’s been doing this for a while now, asking people five questions, the last of which is always about donuts. Some awesome writerly folk have been included, and I’m rather humbled to have been cast among them. In one of those synchronicity moments, my little drive-by has been posted today.

It’s a good bit of fun, so pop over to Angela’s site and have a read. She says such nice things about me, even after I mentioned boobs. Or maybe because of it? While you’re there, scroll back through the posts and read some of the others.


Sourdough & Other Stories by Angela Slatter – review

August 24, 2010

SourdoughYou may remember a few days ago I was bleating on about the awesome book I’d received in the post, Sourdough & Other Stories. As you can see from the picture here, it truly is a work of art in and of itself. Well, now I’ve read it and Angela Slatter’s stories inside are works of art too.

I’m a sucker for a good fairy story. And I mean a proper fairy story, where nasty things happen, even to the good people. It makes my teeth flex to see these sanitised Disney fairy tales, where it’s all rainbows and unicorns and bollocks like that, with a final message that all you have to do is believe in yourself. Fuck off. That’s not a fairy tale. A real fairy story is where the witch does eat the children, not when the children outsmart the mean old witch with their goodness and wholesomeness.

So yeah, I like a proper fairy tale and I knew that Slatter’s book was a collection of such things. I also knew that it was a collection of interconnected stories, with the whole book becoming something of a novel-of-short-stories rather than a whole bunch of standalone yarns. And I knew that most of the stories were dealing primarily with women protagonists. I didn’t know anything more about it than that. I’ve read some of Slatter’s work before and knew what an awesome writer she was, so I had high hopes. I bought this book the moment it became available and it leapt straight to the top of my reading pile.

I consumed this thing whole and it consumed me. Slatter’s writing is exquisite, she really is a master storyteller. Her turns of phrase are often beautiful and haunting. It’s not that her prose is full of literary swirl or flowery excess. She just uses language like a virtuoso pianist uses a keyboard. She delights in the short form of the delivery and these tales are tight, incredibly crafted things. She builds a world and a set of characters and makes us care about both of them in the space of a few paragraphs. She creates a story that hooks us and takes along. And because I knew there was interconnectedness in this book, getting to the end of one story just made me desperate to read the next. I wanted to see whose baby would be the powerful witch later on, or whose actions would cause ripples in future generations. And I was distraught when the book ended and there were no more stories to read.

Terrible things happen in Slatter’s stories, to good guys and bad guys. Good guys do horrible things to bad people and vice versa. Often it’s not entirely clear who the good and bad people are. There’s realism in the desperate struggles of the characters. Often the women around whom all these tales revolve are subjugated and oppressed, yet they shine in the end as the ones with real power, real lasting effect on their world. There are beautiful moments of redemption and bittersweet justice and occasional moments of genuine joy for the characters.

There is constant genuine joy for the reader. This book is a fantastic achievement on every level. Tartarus Press are to be congratulated for creating a beautiful object and Angela Slatter is to be congratulated for crafting a reading experience that is truly sublime. If this doesn’t get up for the Best Collected Work at the Aurealis Awards or something similar I’ll be sorely disappointed. Get it. Now.


The King’s Accord in Flesh & Bone: Rise Of The Necromancers

August 23, 2010

Flesh & BoneWriting is a bit like a gruelling series of floods and droughts. I write all the time, but I go through months without getting anything accepted for publication, then I get a flood of acceptances all at once. The same thing seems to happen with publication. Nothing comes out for ages, then loads happen at once. As well as my flash fiction piece, Jeff Newman’s Headaches, being published today at 52 Stitches and the recent release of the Best Of Friday Flash anthology, featuring my story, Decennial General Meeting, I’ve just discovered that Flesh & Bone: Rise Of The Necromancers has been released by Pill Hill Press. This anthology features my dark fantasy yarn, The King’s Accord.

The King’s Accord is one of my rarer dips into raw fantasy, in the medieval epic fantasy vein, rather than my usual urban fantasy and horror or sci-fi stuff. Mine is a story about the desperate lengths a queen goes to to save her nation from war. I’m really pleased to have been accepted for publication in this one. By all accounts the competition was stiff. The submission call asked for stories thematically based on necromancy, which is the magic of the raising of the dead, and the necromacers that practice the art. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of the stories in this antho.

Here’s the ToC:

Flesh and Bone: Rise of the Necromancers
Edited by Jessy Marie Roberts

Twenty-one dark short stories about the undead, and the persons who raise them…

The Blade of Tears by Lydia Sharp
No Man’s Land by K.G. McAbee
Wrists by Shennandoah Diaz
All the World a Grave by Michael McClung
Blood on the Beach by Anne Michaud
The Scarlet Cat by Rebecca Lloyd
The Mortician’s Secret by Kelley Frank
The King’s Accord by Alan Baxter
Necrodance by Darin Kennedy
The Ghost Walk by Marianne Halbert
Blood Brothers by J. Matthew Saunders
Bequest by Greg Mellor
9 Mystery Rose by Eden Royce
In the Dark Kingdom by Brandon Berntson
Jenna’s Awakening by TW Brown
Queen of Bones by Aubrie Dionne
Small Matters of Immortality by Michael R. Colangelo
The Stoner Bride by Matthew Fryer
Sedenberry’s Pest by Jon C. Forisha
A History of the Wraith King by Chris Poling
And the Greatest of These is Love by David McDonald

Get your copy from Amazon now.


My Aussiecon 4 / Worldcon schedule

August 23, 2010

Aussiecon 4I’m getting very excited about the fast approaching Aussiecon4/Worldcon. It’s going to be massive with loads of cool people and crazy stuff going on. It also turns out that I’m going to be rather busy there. I’ll be running my Write The Fight Right workshop again, which I’m very pleased about. I did this at Conflux last year and it seemed to go down very well.

I’m also going to be on a few panels, doing a signing and a kaffeeklatsch and, bizarrely, helping kids make lightsabers. The full program has been published here, but it’s likely to change a bit right up until the day. Be sure to keep up to date with changes if you’re going. In the meantime, here’s the proposed schedule for myself. It would be great to see any and all at these things, and be sure to come and say hello at some point during the con. It’s always great to meet people in person that I know so well online! (It’s also great to meet people in person that I already know in person, of course, but that should go without saying.)

Thu 1500 Rm 210
Why Australia is more horrifying than anywhere else
Alan Baxter, Will Elliott, Kirstyn McDermott, Chuck McKenzie, Andrew McKiernan
The weather, the reptiles, what it took to get here today—the tallest tales and most salacious facts, for the edification of our overseas guests.

My first engagement of the con and look at the company I’m sharing the panel with! I am not worthy. I did a panel just like this with Paul Haines and others at Continuum earlier this year and it was an interesting subject. It was also covered in an interview Haines and I did for ABC radio. Should be good, especially for scaring the non-Aussies.

Thu 1600 Rm 219
Minotaurs in space helmets: using myth in science fiction
Alan Baxter, Gillian Polack, James Shields
What use are the myths of the world’s cultures to the creation of science fiction? Are there archetypal stories we can draw from to create new worlds and ideas, or are they best suited for re-telling classical stories with a high-tech or otherworldly perspective? A look at what’s been done, who did it best, and why.

I think this one’s going to be a really interesting panel and I’m looking forward to hearing what’s said. I almost wish I was an audience member for this one rather than a panellist. Also, Gillian Polack is threatening to curse me, so it could get messy.

Fri 1000 Rm 209
Light saber making and training

This is something for kids. I’ve never made a lightsaber before, but how hard can it be? (Famous last words.) At least I know swordplay, so I can teach them how to use it, regardless of the build quality!

Friday 1200 Room 204
Blade attraction
Kaneda Cruz, Wing Chung, Sean McMullen, Malcolm Davies

This is a panel all about the popularity of martial arts in spec fic, with Q&A and martial art demos. All the people on this panel have had extensive martial arts experience in a variety of disciplines and are also writers or fans.

Fri 1500 Rm 201

I’ll have copies of RealmShift and MageSign with me, so come and buy and copy and have it signed, or bring your copy along and I’ll sign that. Or I’ll sign yours and you can buy a signed copy for someone else… You get the idea.

Sat 1000 Rm 201

These things are pretty cool. Basically, I get to sit in a room and chat with anyone that turns up with a coffee and something to say. I’m not sure anyone will really be interested in hanging out with me, giving all the other cool stuff happening at this con, but I’ll happily chat about writing, martial arts, the price of groceries these days or whatever else you want.

Sat 1200 Rm 217
Write The Fight Right workshop
A workshop designed to look at the things that make a fight scene in a story read as realistically as possible, while maintaining excitement and pace. By looking at the various factors that go into a real fight, paying attention to the things that we train for when we learn to fight, we can write fight scenes that stay exciting without breaking the rules of realism that shatter believability.

I love this workshop. I ran it at Conflux last year and had a ball. Having had nearly 30 years experience as a martial artist, and given that it’s my “day job”, this is one of the few times when I really know what I’m talking about! I discuss how real fighting goes, in order to help people write a fight scene that has real impact without just being a blow by blow recreation of a Hollywood scrap. We pair up occasionally for some practical application practice (all very slow and gentle, of course) to help understand the points and hopefully people go away with a far better understanding of what fighting’s really like. I absolutely love the opportunity this workshop gives me – my two passions in life are martial arts and writing. Here I get to combine them both. It’s doubleplusawesome.

Sat 1500 Rm 210
Crisis of finite publishers
Karen Healey, Alan Baxter, Paul Cornell, James Bacon
Recent years have seen, paradoxically, an increase in the popularity of superheroes through films such as Iron Man and The Dark Knight, and also a continuing shrinking of the US superhero comic industry—led by DC Comics and Marvel. What is the cause of this shrinking market, and what are the possible solutions? Is it possible that this cultural artefact of the 20th century doesn’t have a future any more? With a shrinking market come increased difficulty in creating and launching new characters and fresh titles: what are the best new superhero comics of recent years, and how did they succeed or fail?

I’m sure it’s not news to anyone here that I’m a huge fan of comics. I think this should be a very interesting discussion.

Sat 1600 Rm 210
Tombstones and chapbooks
Alan Baxter, Ginjer Buchanan, Bill Congreve, Ellen Datlow, Felicity Dowker
Is the small press the real home of contemporary horror fiction? If so, what do the blockbusters Under the Dome and Twilight represent?

I’m on a panel with Ellen Datlow! Gah! *faint* Okay, fanboy moments aside, this should be pretty interesting. I’ve talked here before about the rise and rise of the novella through small press and other things like anthologies and limited edition novels and so on. I’m also a small press publisher myself, having published one collection of dark fiction and one single author collection so far (as well as my own novella). I’ll be very interested to hear what other perceptions there are of small press, because I already know that I love it.

Sun 1200 Rm 203
Novellas: the perfect format
Robert Silverberg, Peter M. Ball, Alan Baxter, Keith Stevenson
Shorter than the novel, longer than the short story: the novella (also the novelette) is one of the more difficult lengths of fiction to write and certainly to sell – but it just might be the best format for science fiction there is. A look at the novella, the sorts of stories you can tell within the form, and how it straddles the line between the short story and the novel.

Following my comments above about the Tombstones and chapbooks panel, I see this one as an extension of that. Small press is about the only place to get novellas published these days, but more and more presses are doing it. Coeur De Lion’s X6 novella anthology was one of the best things published recently, for example, and that was edited by Keith Stevenson. Also, Horn by Peter M Ball is going gangbusters, published by small press Twelfth Planet. With both those guys on the panel, I’m sure you’ll hear us sing the praises of the novella. Here’s hoping it gets ever more popular.

Sun 1500 Rm 215

Again, given all that’s happening, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to come and hear me read from my work, but I’ll be very touched if they do. I’m not sure of the timeslot for this or who I’ll share it with, but I’ll read something from RealmShift and/or MageSign, depending on time.

So there you have it. I’m going to be a busy bastard at this con, which is awesome. Now I have to study the program carefully and figure out all the stuff I don’t want to miss and hope that none of it clashes with my own commitments. I love a good con and this one’s going to be mega.


Jeff Newman’s Headaches at 52 Stitches

August 23, 2010

52 Stitches is a publication that publishes a new “horror bit” – flash fiction stories with a dark theme – every Monday morning. In the late (northern) summer/fall of 2010, all collected stories will be published in a trade paperback. In the meantime, each story is available on the website. The 2009 collection was great and that book is out now. I’m very pleased to be included in this year’s collection and my story has been posted today.

The story is called Jeff Newman’s Headaches. There’s a certain autobiographical angle to this piece. I do get hideous migraines. I get them a lot less these days and I’m getting better at managing them. However, the second paragraph of this story is a pretty accurate description of the worst of my migraines. I actually wrote this story while recovering from one. How much truth there is to the rest of it is something you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. It’s only around 750 words, so it’s easily consumed.

Jeff Newman’s Headaches at 52 Stitches.


Headline of the week

August 22, 2010

On the day after Australia voted with a resounding “meh”, I opened the weekend papers quite sick of the election. It’ll be days or weeks before our hung parliament is sorted out and I didn’t really want to read any more about it for the time being. Give me something else, I thought, something worldly, outside Australia and interesting. I got it.

It’s actually a story about the British government changing their minds about a big funding spend to upgrade the tourist facilities at Stonehenge. There’s a lot of people upset about it, not just druids. In all honesty, I imagine the druids would like all the tourist trappings taken away and the site left the hell alone. But still, that headline did put a smile on my dial this morning.


Sourdough & Other Stories

August 20, 2010

I love getting books in the post. I particularly love getting beautiful books in the post. Look what arrived today:

This is what it looks like under the dust jacket:

Oh yes, that is one fucking beautiful book. It’s also from a print run limited to 300 copies. And it’s a collection of short stories by the incredibly talented and generally wonderful Angela Slatter. It’s basically a giant wad of awesome, dripping in awesome sauce. I can’t wait to read it. I’ll also be schlepping it down to Worldcon to make sure I get it signed by Angela, just to add that cherry of awesome on top.

I have to give full marks to Tartarus Press, that published this lovely tome. It’s great to see that people are still making the effort to produce books that are not only full of the author’s art, but are works of art in themselves.

You might still be lucky enough to score a copy of this, if any of the 300 are left. I expect there’ll be a paperback run once the hardbacks run out, which will still be worth your time and money, because it’s still full of Angela’s stories. But if you’re interested, follow the link below and try to secure your copy of this piece of beauty while there’s still time.

Sourdough & other stories by Angela Slatter, With an Introduction by Robert Shearman and an Afterword by Jeff VanderMeer, from Tartarus Press.



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Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Zetetic.

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